The Shmooze

A Display of Israeli Chauvinism, or a Storm in a Beer Mug?

By Nathan Jeffay

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Kadima lawmaker Otniel Schneller blamed immigrants to Israel from the Former Soviet Union for the national upsurge in drunk driving. He said that “they brought their drinking habits over from there.”

Culture and Sport Minister Limor Livnat tried to stop him, but Schneller continued on to say that prior to this immigration “the problem of drunk driving did not exist in Israel” and claim: “It is one of the symptoms of this welcome immigration.”

There’s plenty of demagoguery and victimization of different ethnic groups in Israeli politics, and one reading of Schneller is that he’s guilty of these sins. The other is that he’s an expert presenting an informed view of a cultural shift who is getting battered for sounding non-PC.

Knesset’s Immigration and Absorption Committee discussed the comments today. Schneller claimed that his comments were “misunderstood,” but Immigration and Absorption minister Sofa Landver went to town on what she presented as his bigotry against immigrants from Russia and nearby countries. The Russian-born politician said: “Maybe [Prime Minister David] Ben-Gurion, who made aliyah from Russia, was under the influence of alcohol when he declared the state? Was [Prime Minister] Levi Eshkol drunk when he started the Six Day War? Was [Ariel] Sharon, whose family’s roots are in Georgia, drunk when he created Kadima?”


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